The following is an excerpt from a chapter in the manual "How to Measure Your Communication Programs" by Angela D. Sinickas
  copyright 2005 Angela D. Sinickas. All rights reserved.   ISBN 0-9661757-1-9
    20. Preparing to Conduct Focus Groups  
Have you ever filled out a survey form, just itching to let someone know exactly how concerned you were with something? Have you ever been frustrated by a questionnaire because none of the questions addressed the problem you were concerned about? Did you ever run out of room in the 'Any other comments?' section describing your concern? If your answer to any of these questions is 'yes,' then you know one of the main reasons it's important to conduct focus groups before you finalize a survey form.
A story:  Because I believe in the value of feedback, and because
I'm a bit of a questionnaire junkie, I often find myself filling out
the questionnaires left in most hotel rooms. But sometimes the
questionnaires themselves are as frustrating as the hotel room
problems I wanted to let the hotel management know about.

Two examples:
I spent about 40 nights in a particular Houston hotel during 1990-91. Nearly half the time that I ordered from room service, my order was wrong when delivered or was missing some key item -- no spoon for my soup, no steak knife for my rib eye steak, no jams or jellies for my toast, or jellies but no toast. No, I was not being singled out.  All the other travelers from my company were experiencing the same problem. I don't doubt that all the other guests in the hotel were getting the identical treatment. Yet the only related question on the survey form was about the quality of the food and the variety of menu choices, not the quality of the service.
Then there was another hotel room where the high outdoor heat and humidity required air conditioning all night. The vent was
strategically placed to blast frigid air directly into a sleeping
guest's face. Because so many other rooms likely had the same floor plan, I assume most guests experienced the same discomfort and, like me, never stayed there again. Yet the customer satisfaction survey asked no question related to temperature or environmental comfort.  The nearest related question asked about my satisfaction with the room's color scheme!
In both situations when I filled out the customer satisfaction survey, I was left to describe the problem in the 'Any other comments?' section, but quickly ran out of room in the three-line space provided.  If only the hotels had conducted a few focus groups of customers before finalizing their survey forms, they would have had a chance of identifying the real problems causing customer migration to the competition. And, they could have tracked over time if customers were still experiencing the same problems or not.
This chapter will help you:

See how to use focus groups in relation to surveys.

• Understand the definition of a focus group.

• Determine when to use a study group instead of a focus group.

• Select audience members for the focus groups.

• Invite the members to participate.

(End of Excerpt)

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  Table of Contents     (To PREVIEW excerpts CLICK underlined text below.) 
  1. Communicate with a Measurement Mindset
    - How Effective are Your Own Communications?
    - Why Bother Measuring Communications?
    - How to Use the Manual
2. Section I: Measurement Tools a la Carte
    - A Beginner's Measurement Toolbox
    - Administering Various Tool
3. Measuring Messages
    - Content Analysis
    - News Release Content Analysis
    - Communication Pattern Analysis
    - Adapted Starch Test
    - Knowledge Testing
4. Measuring Publications and Audiovisuals
    - Objective Media Review
    - Reading Level Test
    - Readership/Viewership Surveys
    - The Semantic Differential
    - Distribution Analysis
    - Minisurveys
5. Measuring Memos, E-Mail and Phone Mail
    - "In-Box" Analysis
    - Content Analysis
    - "Memo Mania" Tracking
6. Measuring Intranets and Web Sites
    - Measuring Outcomes Against Objectives
    - Measuring Web and Intranet Usage
    - Conducting Research with Your Website Users
    - Using Intranets and Web Sites as Measurement Tools
7. Measuring Media Relations
    - Typical Analysis of Clips
    - Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)
    - News Release Content Analysis
    - Track Avoidance of Negative Coverage
    - Surveying Reporters
    - Adding Questions to Existing Market Research Studies
    - Tracking Behavior Changes Against Media Coverage
8. Measuring Face-to-Face Communication
    - Analysis of Supervisor Communication Skills
    - Communication Diary
    - Analysis of Meeting Effectiveness
    - Network Analysis
    - Message Diffusion Tracking
9. Measuring Feedback Systems
    - Official Feedback Programs
    - Measuring Unsolicited Feedback
10. Measuring Communication Climate
    - Critical Incident Analysis
    - Communication Climate (Attitude) Analysis

11. Measuring Behaviors and Outcomes
    - Looking at Existing Data in New Ways
    - Tracking Behaviors
    - Identifying Sources of New Customers/Employees
    - Operational Communication Analysis
    - Decision-Making Communication Analysis

12. Section II: How to Conduct a Communication Audit
    - Beyond the Beginner's Toolbox
    - In This Section
    - Choosing the Right Research Methods

13. Getting Buy-in for the Audit
    - Doors and Windows of Opportunity
    - Shopping for Buy-in
    - Preparing Your Proposal

14. Working with Your Task Force
    - How Large a Task Force
    - Selection Criteria
    - Meeting Site Selection
    - Tools and Materials

15. First Task Force Meeting
    - Agenda for the first Task Force Meeting
    - Meeting Leader's Help Sheet

16. Developing Questions for Interviews and Focus Groups
    - Developing Your Own Unique Questions
    - A Starter List of Questions

17. Recording Responses from Interviews and Focus Groups
    - Inter-Departmental Information Flow
    - Effectiveness of Communication Media

18. How to Conduct Executive Interviews
    - The Purpose of Executive Interviews
    - Fulfilling Your Personal Objectives
    - Similarities to Journalistic Interviews
    - Differences from Journalistic Interviews
    - Announcing the Interview
    - Practicing Your Interview Technique
    - Conducting the Interview

19. Second Task Force Meeting
    - Agenda for the Second Task Force Meeting
    - Meeting Leader's Help Sheet

20. Preparing to Conduct Focus Groups
    - What Constitutes a Focus Group
    - Focus Groups vs. Study Groups
    - How Focus Groups Relate to Study Groups
    - How to Select Focus Group Members
    - How to Invite Focus Group Participants

21. Facilitating Focus Groups
    - Scheduling Focus Groups
    - Location and Room Arrangements
    - Note-Taking vs. Recording
    - Choosing a Facilitator
    - Tips for Facilitating the Sessions

22. Third Task Force Meeting
    - Agenda for the Third Task Force Meeting
    - Meeting Leader's Help Sheet

23. Constructing Survey Form Questions
    - Determining Topics to Include on the Survey
    - Phrasing Questions for Clarity and Impact

24. Developing the Format of Your Survey Form
    - Designing the Survey's Overall Effect
    - How to Record Answers
    - How to Structure Responses
    - How to Organize Responses

25. Administering Survey Forms
    - Who Should Be Surveyed
    - When to Conduct Surveys
    - How to Distribute Questionnaires
    - How to Collect Questionnaires
    - Administering Your Survey

26. Analyzing Your Results
    - Organizing Your Overall Results
    - Detailed Analysis

27. Reporting Your Results
    - Types of Reports
    - Sections of a Report
    - Some Guiding Principles

28. Final Task Force Meeting
    - Agenda for the Final Task Force Meeting
    - Meeting Leader's Help Sheet

29. Index

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